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Shades of Black

Actor Vijay Verma tells Suranjana Biswas about the life-altering choices he had to make in real life, much like his character in his upcoming release Monsoon Shootout

What was your instinctive reaction when you were offered the role of a cop?

I tested for this role many times; I was desperate to get the nod. When I did get the role, I was shooting in Ladakh. I was thrilled that all the hard work I had put in had paid off. I immediately started reading the script.


You have worked in many films that deal with hard-hitting subjects or that have dark humour. Are you personally inclined towards genres like these?

I enjoy watching all kinds of films; it just happens that these are the kind of films I am offered. Maybe I am better at these films than I am at other genres. Yes, Pink and Rangrezz did have dark content. And although Rangrezz had some dark humour, it was still a fun film to do. I am inclined towards crime drama, but I would love to do light-hearted films as well, either a comedy or a funny crime film. I am big sucker for fantasy and adventure. Or maybe fantasy sci-fi, but we don’t really get to do that in India.


How did you prepare to play the character?

I knew I had to hold the gun correctly, get the salute right, get the body language right, and get the decorum of a police officer right. I enrolled in a police academy with the help of a production house. I was there for a week. They started their drill at 4.30 in the morning and it went on till evening. I was there with the people who were actually training to become cops. It really helped me and is very important when you do a realistic film. It was important for me to know the nature of the job. I also went through a gun-training session, to get the posture right. I went to a range and shot a few blanks. I read a lot of crime novels, and tried to understand the era that the film was set in. I also learnt about a lot of encounter specialists.


The trailer suggests that there is a lot of violence in the film. As an actor, was it sometimes emotionally draining to be a part of such a film?

In the film, my character finds himself in a situation where he didn’t anticipate the consequences of something he had done. He experiences strong feelings of guilt. Usually, people dismiss these feelings but this guy is very idealistic, very sound, morally correct, and an ethically on-point officer, who has topped the academy. So when he does something wrong, he wants to confront his mistakes and accept them. It was very interesting for me to explore because we usually tend to hide our emotions about our mistakes. That bit was challenging. It was physically exhausting especially since we shot in artificial rain. I absolutely enjoyed the process of shooting, though.


We all know that the film took some time to release, theatrically. Considering its content, do you believe the audience is more receptive to a film like this now than they were earlier?

Thanks to Netflix and American TV shows, people who watch this kind of content understand the idea of multiple narratives, parallel narratives, alternative reality, alternative worlds… all these are familiar to us after watching shows like Breaking Bad and Westworld. They play with the edit, the screenplay; they play with your mind… That kind of awareness has come to urban India, whereas it was once very niche. I believe the audience is more receptive now. Besides, Indian cinema hasn’t seen a film like this before, one that deals with a similar hook.


This film is about a cop who is compelled to make life-altering choices. Did Vijay ever face a situation like that?

One of the biggest choices I ever had to make was to become an actor. I was completely unsupported and, in fact, ridiculed by my family. It was years before I could let out this ‘secret’. I wanted to learn more about acting and the process of making films. When I enrolled in FTII, I did make a choice, despite knowing that I would be investing two years of my life in acting. That’s how my journey began. If I hadn’t made that choice then, I would have been nowhere today because I am not good at anything else.


Tell us about your equation with Nawaz. What was it like to work with him?

It was an absolute pleasure to work with him. We had just finished Chittagong before shooting for Monsoon Shootout. Though I played a substantial role in it, I didn’t get to share screen space with him. So when I heard that Amit had Nawaz in mind for the gangster’s role, I was very happy. We bonded really well; I have a lot of regard for him. I have watched his films and he is phenomenal. He was always generous with his inputs when asked.


What about your future projects?

I just finished shooting for a Telegu film, NCA, and I play a villain in this film, for the first time. It will release a week after Monsoon Shootout. There is an independent film coming up called Marah, which will be going to festivals. Then there is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Yaara, which is yet to release.


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